The Recruitment Process: Part 2 – Taking on board feedback

Business Learnings

24th November 2020

So here we are at Part 2 – exploring the recruitment process from the eyes of a small business. 

In Part 1, I talked about how Telescopic usually deals with the application and interview stages when taking on a new team member. 

We thought we had a well-oiled process but nothing could have prepared us for hiring during a global pandemic. From receiving over 500 applicants and having to adapt our screening technique to dealing with post-interview feedback. 

It was a steep learning curve so, in this part, I look at what we, the business/employer/owner, can take from the experience and how Telescopic will benefit from it going forward.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

– Maya Angelou

Turning the tables

As I mentioned in Part 1, it’s common for candidates to ask for feedback after the interview. But I don’t think it needs to stop there.

This time round, we, in turn, received feedback, which is also appreciated, of course.

By breaking it down, I believe there are valuable lessons and insights both sides can take here.

Responding to feedback

“In regards to my experience of the interview, I was expecting it to be an ‘informal’ interview as it was described in our previous communication, however, it was not quite the case.”

To be perfectly frank here: no matter what your perception of ‘informal’ is – treat an interview as a very serious affair that decides if you get a job or not. Because that’s what it is. 

“Informal” just means we didn’t have a script.

Another candidate replied to the feedback we’d given them asking why they were not invited to an interview (they didn’t provide a practical test result and hardly filled in any forms – why bother in the first place?). 

two interviewers discussing notes at computers

I did, however, make the effort to give examples of what had impressed us in other responses. This time I even got a response:

Thanks anyway, I already got hired.”

Well, not sure what to make of this. I guess we’ll stick to a policy of only giving feedback if it’s requested.

“The first thing I was told was how time constricted you both were but also leaving the impression of your lack of interest in me and the interview in general from the beginning as this was followed by a very rushed description of your company and a series of questions.”

This was a great learning point for us. It can be easy, especially after a day of interviews, to rush through things and assume an interviewee is at ease when in fact they’re not. The last thing we want is candidates thinking we’re not interested, or that the outcome of the interview is a foregone conclusion.

However, the reality is that time constriction is a real thing. This is a business. We only have so many hours in a week. Unfortunately, you will not get more time to convince us. 

We are also scrupulous in allocating the same amount of time to each interview, for the sake of fairness.

“As a result, naturally, this will always make your interviewees feel uncomfortable and rushed, and in some cases they would feel pressure, making them even more nervous than they would already be given the interview was important to them… Overall, I believe a rushed 30-minute interview cannot give you the full picture of myself and my abilities, making your email response quite judgemental, unfair and unkind.”

If a rushed introduction is too much for a candidate, then the role is probably not a great fit for them. This is because, in an agency environment, everything is under time constraints and the environment is often pressurized.

Of course, we take a light-hearted approach to it as much as we can, but we do juggle multiple tasks at any one time. 

We have to ensure systems remain stable, clients are kept up to date, bugs are fixed, systems are planned, requirements are understood – communication within the team helps keep our people happy. 

We expect everyone to take responsibility for their tasks, step in to help out where necessary, and put in their very best effort to get stuff done. 

We work openly and transparently – we, as in, the management team, take the heat if things go awry (and there will always be something that does), but we expect to have all hands on deck when it’s needed. 

Sadly, judgmental is the exact description of an interview. This is a tough job and may not be right for a candidate who feels a half hour interview too much pressure.

And how might we give someone that second chance? A longer second interview? Would that be fair in regards to all the other interviews we had that turned out really well? 

When you know better, do better

We really did take a lot from this process and I personally spent some time reflecting. As a result, we have now decided to update our recruitment process…


  1. Give feedback – but only if it’s requested

As I talked about in Part 1 of the recruitment process, it takes about 15 minutes to fully read a response, CV and practical task, then articulate the reasons a particular candidate didn’t make the cut. With 50 responses, that’s 12 hours.

This time, we sent a mass email to the unlucky candidates and only 2 requested the detailed feedback offered. 

If you’re really interested and can take honest feedback, we’re more than happy to provide it. It may even help you adjust your responses for the next interview.

  1. Be really clear about the process

We’re going to send an agenda for the 30 minutes we have and will make it clear that there is limited time. Also that this interview will be a make or break opportunity. There might be a second interview if we really can’t decide or need further info, but it’s all based on this first impression!

  1. Think about tone and presentation

We might think that starting an interview with a breezy, snappy presentation of the company compressed into a couple of minutes will put people at their ease, but that might not be the case for everybody. 

We’ve tried to avoid going for a ‘traditional’ interview style in the past with formally structured questions yielding predictable answers, but given this is what a lot of candidates are used to, maybe we’re throwing people with an informal style. 

In the end, it’s in our interest to try and get the most out of everyone who makes it to the interview round.

Some general advice for potential candidates and job seekers out there

Sometimes it just comes down to money. Feel free to set your sights high when asked about expected salary, but if you’re wildly over the budget set for a role, that might prevent you from getting an interview. If you don’t have an indication of salary (we will always give one), there are online tools you can use to get an idea of the likely range.

Even for developer roles, communication matters! In your paper-based applications, Proof-read your responses. It really does matter if your sentences lacked correct spelling or grammar. If English isn’t your first language, consider asking an English speaker to check your responses.

And yes, it does usually require more than 3 words in a sentence to impress. Always explain your thinking behind an answer to show how you reached your conclusion. Also make sure you express your interest and enthusiasm in the company you are applying to.

You may even hear in feedback that your code was really not great, that there were several HTML closing tags missing and your coding style needs to be improved. We know these tests can be frustrating and time consuming, but in a crowded market they will often be the first thing an agency looks at to sift you.

While I appreciate some of these things may be hard to hear, take it as a great opportunity to learn and develop. 

I know I did.

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